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What To Do If Your Hamster Is in Shock

Last Updated on: 4th January 2024, 08:29 pm

Hamsters can enter shock after an injury, fall, or stressful situation. When a hamster’s in shock, warm it up by slowly massaging the body and put it in a dark, quiet location away from sudden or loud movements.

Shock and trauma can cause severe health problems, like stress and heart failure. Even if a hamster starts to recover, consult a vet to check for injury and trauma.

How Do You Know If Your Hamster Is Traumatized?

As PLoS One explains, hamsters are prey animals, which makes them especially vulnerable to shock and trauma. Loud noises, other pets, injuries, accidents, and mishandling can trigger shock.

When a hamster experiences shock, the cells become hypoxic. This is where the circulatory system doesn’t deliver sufficient oxygenated blood, sometimes leading to tissue damage or organ failure.

While trauma symptoms vary, the main warning signs are as follows:

Limpness

Hamsters in shock will appear limp or lifeless. This sometimes indicates injury, so limpness is a severe issue. Limpness occurs after a fall, indicating trauma or injury.

Dazed Appearance

Hamsters in shock appear dazed due to trauma. The hamster will freeze and remain fixed for a significant time while trying to recover from the shock.

Unregulated Body Temperature

When hamsters are in trauma and go into shock, their blood circulation is compromised, which causes the body temperature to destabilize. The hamster will feel cold and may start shivering or appear shaky.

Rapid Pulse Rate

Hamsters have a faster pulse than other animals, which will increase following shock.

The pulse should return to a healthier rate once the initial shock wears off, but you’ll need to monitor this if it remains high.

Shallow Breathing

Shocked hamsters take shallow breaths in response to a traumatic experience. Again, the hamster’s breathing will return to normal once the shock wears off, but this may take some time.

Hiding

A hamster will hide in its burrow and won’t emerge due to fear. You must monitor the hamster to ensure it can eat and drink, as it could dehydrate and lose weight.

The Hamster Fell from 3 Feet

Whether you accidentally drop the hamster, it jumps out of your hands, or it falls from a 3-foot height by itself, hamsters are prone to mishaps.

Falling from a height is one of the most common causes of shock. As hamsters are so small, they can easily break and injure themselves.

While hamsters are light enough to survive terminal velocity, a bad landing can cause an injury, especially if they land on a hard surface without cushioning.

Even if your hamster manages to escape the fall unscathed, it’s likely to go into shock.

Companion Animal explains how hamsters hide pain to protect themselves from being picked off by predators. However, a hamster will display symptoms of shock through its heart and breathing rate.

The Hamster Fell on Its Back

While many hamsters can correct themselves mid-air, there’s not always enough time between the fall and landing for them to do so.

Whether a hamster experiences long-term spinal damage depends on the following:

  • Distance.
  • Angle.
  • Landing position.
  • Floor’s surface.
  • Age and health.

Check how the hamster moves around after the fall to ensure it’s not in discomfort.

what to do if your hamster is in shock

The Hamster Fell on Its Head

Brain injuries can cause similar symptoms to shock. However, unlike shock, the hamster may develop a head tilt or have seizures.

A fall resulting in the hamster landing on its head is a painful and traumatic experience. So, the hamster may become more scared of being handled and hide in its burrows.

Can Hamsters Die from Shock?

Shock is a cause of stress, known to worsen existing health conditions in hamsters, like Tyzzer’s disease.

According to the MSD Veterinary Manual, stress precipitates the bacterium Clostridium piliforme, a bacteria related to Tyzzer’s disease.

Over time, the condition causes painful liver lesions, eventually leading to liver failure.

Shock can also trigger heart attacks and, subsequently, heart failure. Stress and fear caused by trauma are common triggers and often result in secondary health issues. The signs of heart failure include:

  • Rapid breathing.
  • Respiratory distress.
  • Difficulty or irregular breathing.
  • Blue tint to the gums or skin.
  • Appetite loss.

There’s no treatment for heart failure, so many hamsters with the condition require ongoing care to make them more comfortable in the final stages of life.

While shock can cause death, many hamsters recover from the initial trauma and lead healthy lives. However, the initial cause of shock will need to be eradicated.

What To Do if A Hamster Is in Shock

Once you’ve recognized the signs of shock, you’ll need to step in to aid its recovery. While the hamster will likely want to be left alone for a while, there are steps you can take:

Warmth

Hamsters will recover sooner if they’re kept warm. Methods for warming up a hamster include:

  • Hot water bottle under a cloth.
  • Heat lamp.
  • Putting the cage on a heating pad.
  • Turn up the heating.

Hamsters in shock may not want to be held, especially if injured. Check for injuries before handling, and wear gloves in the event of bites due to defensive behavior.

Comfortable Place

A quiet location will help hamsters calm down and de-elevate their heart rate.

Physical Examination

Check the hamster for open wounds, bleeding, sprained muscles, or fractured bones. If you know the hamster has fallen or been involved in an altercation, an injury is likely the cause.

Treat Injuries

The two most common injuries that cause shock are as follows:

Broken Bones

If the hamster has any broken bones, it must be examined by a vet. Bones can heal, but a vet will ensure they don’t heal incorrectly or at the wrong angle.

You’ll know the hamster has broken a bone if its limbs are misaligned or can’t walk properly. A broken bone is likely if the hamster reacts adversely when you touch a specific limb or part of its body.

Wounds

If a wound is bleeding, staunch it by applying pressure to the site. You can use toilet paper or gauze to soak up the blood.

Once the blood has clotted, you can apply styptic powder. This works by causing the blood vessels around the cut to constrict, reducing blood flow and promoting clotting.

Disinfect the wounds using a diluted antiseptic or salt and water solution. Unintentionally soaking a hamster’s coat can lower its body temperature.

For minor wounds, apply disinfectant with a cotton swab. For more significant wounds, use a syringe. Continue to apply the solution daily until there’s a scab.

Antibiotics will be required to remove the swelling, redness, and pus if an infection occurs.

Keep It Company

According to Psychoneuroendocrinology, Syrian hamsters have impaired wound healing due to stress. Even if a hamster isn’t injured, it needs less stress while recovering from the shock.

Keep the hamster company, as your presence is likely to aid recovery.

Take To The Vet

Shock is only a medical emergency if broken bones, bleeding, bacterial infection, or unconsciousness accompany it. Usually, a hamster will make a recovery on its own.